Southwest Suburbs: the Birthplace of Chicago
It's a part of Chicago that's full of surprises. It's home to a 28-square-mile forest with a rock canyon. It's where one of the Blues Brothers did time (along with thousands of other real-life convicts). And it's the setting for Chicago's most famous ghost story. It's home to major league soccer and minor league baseball. Chicago's largest Arab and Ghanaian communities are here. It's also home to a bustling industrial canal where salty mariners navigate a Panama Canal-sized lock past a hundred-year-old hydroelectric dam. This modern waterway follows the path of a 19th century canal that first connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi. That earlier canal transformed Chicago from an isolated trading post on the edge of the American frontier into the fastest-growing city in the history of the world.
You'll find all this and more in Chicago's southwest suburbs. In his newest TV Tour, host Geoffrey Baer travels by train, tugboat and 1958 Edsel as he takes WTTW Channel 11 viewers on a journey through this fascinating region.
Here is just a small sampling of the people, places and stories to be featured:
- The tragic tale of Preston Tucker's "Car of Tomorrow." Today his factory is Ford City Mall.
- Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and a host of other stars at the Sabre Room in Hickory Hills.
- Blues legends buried in local cemeteries along with two Chicago mayors, an African American aviation pioneer and a civil rights icon.
- The daredevil Tinley Park family that produced five Indy 500 drivers.
- The Secret Service agent who took a bullet for President Reagan and then became the police chief of Orland Park.
- A shrine in Midlothian where bikers and motorists made annual pilgrimages for the blessing of their vehicles.
- The Rock Island Railroad's connection to Abraham Lincoln and the Beatles!
- Route 66 lore.
- A chilling visit inside the vacant Joliet Prison.
- A new prairie taking root at a former arsenal where workers once produced the explosive equivalent of 300 atomic bombs per week.
- A spectacular restored movie palace and an amazing array of public art in Joliet.
- How Romeo and Juliet became Romeoville and Joliet.
- The 1990 tornado that devastated Plainfield and nearby communities and killed 29 people.
- Surviving fragments of the old Illinois and Michigan Canal completed in 1848, and the canal towns like Lockport and Lemont that are keeping that history alive.
- The bustling modern-day waterway where maritime Chicago is still thriving.
- A one-tenth-sized replica of the White House in Darien built by a congressman as an anniversary present to his wife.